Dentists lend a hand in Russia 500 youths are treated near Moscow CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

September 27, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

For five days last month, three Carroll County dentists left their comfortable, high-tech private practices to work in dental clinics where anesthetics and X-ray machines are considered luxuries and disposable gloves and masks are unheard of.

The local dentists were in a 12-member group that traveled to Lubertsy, a small town about 15 miles from Moscow, to provide dental care to 500 children, many of them orphans, ages 4 to 6.

The dentists worked in five clinics, seeing as many as 20 children a day. Some of the children had never had such basic preventive dental care as cleanings and fluoride treatments.

Sponsored by the Laurel Rotary Club and Rotary International, the trip was organized by Tammy Fesche, a Rotary member who previously had led dentists on four missions to her native Ecuador.

Mrs. Fesche decided to arrange a trip to Russia after some officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington heard her speak at a Laurel Rotary Club meeting about her latest trip to Ecuador. The Russian officials asked Mrs. Fesche whether she could put together a trip to Russia, and she called dentists who had accompanied her on previous trips.

The Carroll dentists on the Russian trip were Marshall Fesche of Westminster, Mrs. Fesche's husband; David Fields, a Westminster orthodontist; and David Hasson of Finksburg, who practices pediatric dentistry in Mount Airy and Baltimore. The other dentists on the trip were David Laughlin, of York, Pa.; Marlin Rekow of the University of Maryland dental school; and Kraig McKee of Pittsburgh, Pa.

"These people [the dentists] are very special people, because sometimes we put up with a lot," Mrs. Fesche said.

Each day the dentists were bused to the dental clinics in Lubertsy, where they would find about 20 children waiting for treatment. Each dentist was provided with a translator from a local school.

"I learned that children are exactly the same around the world," said Dr. Fields, whose wife, Deborah, a dental assistant, also went on the trip.

"They're a little scared to see the dentist, but they warm up to you if you're nice to them," Dr. Fields said of the children. He also has made two trips to Ecuador with Mrs. Fesche.

Many of the children they treated had severe dental decay resulting from lack of preventive treatment, and some had tooth fractures or accident-related injuries.

The visiting dentists took nearly half a ton of dental supplies and equipment, including anesthetics, antibiotics, disposable masks and gloves, and fiber-optic lights they used to repair broken teeth.

"The Russian dentists were amazed at how well-behaved the children were when they were anesthetized," Dr. Hasson said.

The visiting dentists said the Russian dental clinics resembled U.S. dental offices of the 1950s. Some clinics lacked such basic equipment as X-ray machines.

Dr. Hasson recalled one young girl with a swollen mouth. The clinic he was working in had no X-ray machine, so he had to send the child to a hospital for the X-rays.

The problem was a tooth growing through the roof of the girl's mouth. Dr. Hasson said he removed it surgically.

In addition to providing hands-on treatment, the dentists gave a seminar on dental care to about 100 of their Russian counterparts.

While the visiting dentists treated the children, the Russians asked questions about their techniques and equipment.

The Russian dentists "were well-meaning and wanted to do the best for the patients, but their equipment and supplies are outdated," Dr. Fesche said. "And they're not up on preventive dentistry. . . . It's more of a treat-the-problem approach."

The U.S. dentists, who stayed in a dormitory at a local school, worked half of each day in the dental clinics. Their Russian hosts insisted that afternoons were meant for sightseeing. The translators took the group to museums, Red Square, the Kremlin and other historical sites.

The dentists were honored for their efforts recently at a reception at the Russian Embassy in Washington.

The Carroll County dentists who made the trip said they are eager to do it again.

"It makes me better when I go," Dr. Fields said. "When you come back, you're not jaded with what you're doing and have a different perspective on your work."

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